National house values rose 1.1% in January


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The Year of the Tiger sees the property market roar, crypto fees rise 4320% and rates stay on hold. Here are five things you may have missed this week.

Another $8300 added to homeowners' wealth

January is normally a quiet month for real estate, but not in 2022. The latest CoreLogic data shows housing values climbed 1.1% nationally in the first month of the year - adding an extra $8343 to home owner's wealth across the nation.

property market booms 2022

The uptick in values saw Melbourne's median house value crack the $1 million barrier for the first time, while in Sydney the median is nudging $1.4 million.

Rising property prices is not the news first home buyers want to hear, especially as two of the nation's most affordable state capitals - Brisbane and Adelaide, saw values climb 2.3% and 2.2% respectively in January.

However, it comes as the Commonwealth Bank has announced it is opening up additional places for first home buyers under the Federal Government's First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, which requires just 5% deposit and no lenders mortgage insurance.

Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, warns that prospective homebuyers could face double trouble from the budget-bruising combination of high home prices plus expected cash rate increases.

He says, "Once this happens, we can expect housing demand to gradually ease and growth in property prices to stabilise."

No change! says Reserve Bank

Monthly interest rate meetings at the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) must have something of a Groundhog Day feel to them. Australia's central bank held its first rate meeting for 2022 this week, and despite a hike in inflation, the RBA decided to keep the cash rate on hold at 0.1%.

It's the 13th time the Reserve has called 'no change' since cutting the cash rate from 0.25% to 0.1% back in November 2020.

It has now been more than 11 years since Australia has seen an increase in the official cash rate.

Which cryptocurrency saw trading fees jump 4320%?

Close to one in four Australians own cryptocurrency, but along with wild swings in value, digital currencies can come with solid trading fees. And it turns out some crypto fees have skyrocketed.

Research by Forex Suggest shows transaction fees for Dogecoin saw the biggest increase in transfer fees over the past 12 months, rising from 0.01% to 0.433% - a jump of 4,230%. The meme coin has experienced a rise in popularity, driven by billionaire Elon Musk stating Dogecoin is one of only three cryptocurrencies he owns.

Trading fees for Bitcoin fell 26% during 2021, to end the year at 4.092%.

Ethereum is the most expensive cryptocurrency, with an average transaction fee of over $US50 (about $AUD70). At the budget end of the market, the cryptocurrency with the lowest transfer fee is ZCash, which charges users a microscopic $0.0000368 ($AUD$0.0000515).

The $95 you've forgotten you have

Australians are sitting on $1.8 billion worth of unused gift cards, according to research by Finder.

It found the average Aussie has $95 in gift vouchers languishing in drawers around the country, and plenty of that spending power is going to waste.

Changes to consumer law in 2019 mean all gift cards now have a minimum 3-year expiry period. It sounds like a reasonable time to work out where you'd like to redeem a card. However, one in four people admit they've let a gift card expire before they got around to using it.

A further 7% have lost a gift card, and a hapless 7% of people didn't get to spend their gift card at all because the store issuing the card had gone out of business by the time they went to make a purchase.

The bottom line? Don't let the dollars on your plastic go to waste. Round up gift cards from the 2021 festive season and start shopping.

COVID sees voluntary super contributions rise

AMP has announced that it's almost one million superannuation fund members are 27% more likely to be making voluntary contributions to their super than before the COVID pandemic began.

Members contributed an extra $296 on average to their super over the three months to September 2021, compared to the same period in 2019, says AMP. It may not sound like much, but keeping up this level of extra contributions can mean having an extra $75,000 in retirement savings over a 40-year period.

Even better, the research shows additional voluntary contribution rates for women are growing 6% faster than men.

Voluntary super contributions don't just add to your future nest egg, they can also provide a tax saving today. Concessional super contributions are limited to $27,500 annually though this total includes employer-paid contributions under the Super Guarantee scheme.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.